Burn It Down, Rex

Since the beginning of this nightmare administration, we’ve been assured — via well-placed anonymous sources — that a few sober, trustworthy people in the White House were checking Donald Trump’s worst instincts and most erratic whims. A collection of generals, New York finance types and institution-minded Republicans were said to be nobly sacrificing their reputations and serving a disgraceful president for the good of the country. Through strategic leaks they presented themselves as guardians of American democracy rather than collaborators in its undoing.

.. Last August, after the president said there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., senior officials rationalized their continued role in the administration to Mike Allen of Axios. “If they weren’t there, they say, we would have a trade war with China, massive deportations, and a government shutdown to force construction of a Southern wall,”

.. Since then, we’ve had a government shutdown over immigration, albeit a brief one. A trade war appears imminent. Arrests of undocumented immigrants — particularly those without criminal records — have continued to surge.

.. Over the past 14 months we’ve also seen monstrous levels of corruption and chaos, a plummeting of America’s standing in the world and the obliteration of a host of democratic norms. Yet things could always be worse; the economy is doing well and Trump has not yet started any real wars.

The former Deputy National Security Adviser

  • Dina Powell left in January.
  • Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, announced his resignation on March 6. Secretary of State
  • Rex Tillerson was terminated by tweet on Tuesday. National Security Adviser
  • H. R. McMaster will reportedly be among the next to go, and Trump may soon fire Attorney General
  • Jeff Sessions, possibly as a prelude to shutting down the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Adding to the tumult, a parade of lesser officials have either quit or been fired, including the White House communications director

  • Hope Hicks, staff secretary
  • Rob Porter and Trump’s personal aide
  • John McEntee.

The self-styled grown-ups are, for the most part, being replaced by lackeys and ideologues. Larry Kudlow, the CNBC pundit Trump has appointed to succeed Cohn, is known for the consistent wrongness of his predictions.

.. John Roberts of Fox News reported that McMaster could be replaced by uberhawk John Bolton, who last month wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.” (Bolton has described proposed talks between Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea as an opportunity to deliver a harsh ultimatum.)

.. This new stage of unbound Trumpism might make the administration’s first year look stable in comparison. That would partly vindicate the adults’ claims that things would be even messier without them. But it would also mean that by protecting the country from the consequences of an unhinged president, they helped Trump consolidate his power while he learned how to transcend restraints.

Whatever their accomplishments, if from their privileged perches these people saw the president as a dangerous fool in need of babysitting, it’s now time for some of them to say so publicly.

.. That logic, however, only holds for those who remain on decent terms with Trump. Which means that if there’s one person who has no excuse for not speaking out, it’s Tillerson, once one of the most powerful private citizens in America, now humbled and defiled by his time in Trump’s orbit.
.. “Rex is never going to be back in a position where he can have any degree of influence or respect from this president,” my Republican source said. Because of that, the source continued, “Rex is under a moral mandate to do his best to burn it down.” That would mean telling the truth “about how concerned he is about the leadership in the Oval Office, and what underpins those concerns and what he’s seen.”
..  patriotism and self-interest point in the same direction.
.. If Tillerson came out and said that the president is unfit, and perhaps even that venal concerns for private gain have influenced his foreign policy, impeachment wouldn’t begin tomorrow, but Trump’s already narrow public support would shrink further.
.. Republican members of Congress like Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might be induced to rediscover their spines and perform proper oversight.

The Swine of Conservatism

professional Christian Roy Moore, who is credibly alleged to have spent his thirties pursuing high school girls with the “I get older, they stay the same age” gusto of Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused,”

.. a quick typology of the predators that flourish among the godly and moralistic and traditional.

.. rotten patriarch. This is the man who depends on the trappings of spiritual or familial authority to exploit the young and weak, shame them into silence, and pre-emptively discredit them.

.. the way conservative impulses protect this kind of figure — both in the suggestion that a man of his religious reputation should be trusted over his accusers, and in the risible invocation of Biblical examples to defend an older man’s lust for a 14-year-old girl.

.. the burrower, the networker, the institutionalist — the predator who embeds himself within a hierarchical system that protects him because it wants to protect itself.

Many Catholic priest-abusers fit this pattern.

.. the larger ecclesiastical entity saw its own self-protection as more important than their punishment.

.. serial repenter — the creep who relies on the promise of forgiveness to keep his place and his powers and his opportunities to prey again.

.. Harvey Weinstein ran Miramax the same way an abusive religious leader rules his cult. Bill Clinton was both a liberal pig backing feminist causes to buy immunity and a serial repenter in the style of his Baptist youth. A liberal academic eminence grooming disciples to be victims has a lot in common with a man of God who does the same.
.. Some cultural conservatives, in evangelical Christianity especially, combine a belief in male headship in churches and families with a “boys will be boys and girls shouldn’t tempt them” attitude toward sex. It’s a combination that’s self-contradictory and deeply toxic, handing men not just power but a permission slip to abuse it — which, predictably, they do.
.. the impulse to hide or dismiss scandal because it hurts the short-term cause, which is common to all institutions but particularly strong for conservative ones, is a path to self-destruction in the long run.

.. the Catholic Church’s sex abuse experience is a case study. And we may be watching something similar happen with evangelicals, who decided with Donald Trump and may decide with Roy Moore that in the war against secular liberalism, they simply can’t afford to police the morals of their leaders.

It’s a theory that makes sense if you think only of today’s elections, but in the long term it’s cultural suicide — because it tells your neighbors and your children that your religious convictions are always secondary to your partisanship.